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By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

July 19, 2021 | 4 min read

Dick’s Sporting Goods has partnered with top Gen Z TikTok influencers to highlight its fresh back-to-school looks ahead of the new academic year. To further its appeal to Gen Z consumers, the brand worked with the creators every step of the way — from music selection to production and activation.

Ahead of a back-to-school season sure to inspire a surge in consumer activity as students return to in-person learning, Dick’s Sporting Goods has teamed up with a handful of top Gen Z TikTok creators to launch its new national ad campaign. Featured stars include Jean-Victor Mackie, the dancer who has amassed some 6.3m followers, lifestyle blogger Nicole Laeno and viral musician and beatmaker Ricky Desktop.

Brought to life by creative agency VMLY&R, the hero film is a high-energy music-driven spot depicting the TikTokers gearing up for the new school year with fresh kicks, new hoodies and brand-name backpacks and gym bags. It showcases the stars’ dance moves in various in-store scenes as well as on a school bus. The campaign includes a 15-second spot, a 30-second spot as well as an additional 15-second spot featuring original beats by Ricky Desktop.

“We are really leaning into the emotional component of back to school this year and showcasing our product in a really fun way, knowing there’s enthusiasm and optimism around coming back in person,” Ed Plummer, Dick’s chief marketing officer tells The Drum. “We’re utilizing influencers more than ever and are doubling down on our use of TikTok and other social channels to resonate with Gen Z when and where they consume content.”

The campaign seeks to not only meet Gen Z consumers where they are — on platforms like TikTok and Instagram — but also appeal to their demand for authenticity. That’s why Dick’s has chosen not only to feature influencers in the video spots, but to partner with them in every step of the campaign creation process. The creators not only attended two production shoots but a select number were involved in a “steering committee” designed to provide the brand with direct, real-time feedback on the planning and production of the campaign.

“This campaign was built by teen creators from the ground up,” says Scott Lichtenauer, VMLY&R group creative director. “They advised on the concepts, the looks, the language and the music. We wanted to give them more say in every aspect because they know their audiences better than anyone.”

And the creators themselves were more than happy to lend their expertise and opinions along the way. “It was really cool to be included in helping plan a campaign that’s authentic to our followers,” says creator Nicole Laeno. “The energy and excitement brings to life all the styles and gear kids are looking for as they head back to school.”

Girl dancing

In addition to the three major campaign videos, the program also includes a number of experiential activations and initiatives across social media. The retailer will host a store “lock-in,” in which a squad of young TikTokers will spend the night inside a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Knoxville, TN. Throughout the summer, creators will make original content featuring products sold at Dick’s as well as content created inside Dick’s stores to be shared on TikTok and Instagram. The program will wrap in August with a TikTok challenge.

Jean-Victor Mackie, one of the campaign’s top stars, tells The Drum, “I wouldn’t be involved in something I don’t believe in, and Dick’s has a lot to offer, from top style trends to gear and more. I love that we were able to capture the excitement around this time of year and can’t wait for kids to get involved with the TikTok challenge, on Instagram and more.”

The campaign will debut on Hulu, Youtube and across digital and social channels Monday, July 19. It will roll out across more than 25 major television networks beginning July 25.

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